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Manipulation of α4βδ GABA A receptors alters synaptic pruning in layer 3 prelimbic prefrontal cortex and impairs temporal order recognition: Implications for schizophrenia and autism.

Brain Research 2024 April 9
Temporal order memory is impaired in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia (SCZ). These disorders, more prevalent in males, result in abnormal dendritic spine pruning during adolescence in layer 3 (L3) medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), yielding either too many (ASD) or too few (SCZ) spines. Here we tested whether altering spine density in neural circuits including the mPFC could be associated with impaired temporal order memory in male mice. We have shown that α4βδ GABAA receptors (GABARs) emerge at puberty on spines of L5 prelimbic mPFC (PL) where they trigger pruning. We show here that α4βδ receptors also increase at puberty in L3 PL (P < 0.0001) and used these receptors as a target to manipulate spine density here. Pubertal injection (14 d) of the GABA agonist gaboxadol, at a dose (3 mg/kg) selective for α4βδ, reduced L3 spine density by half (P < 0.0001), while α4 knock-out increased spine density ∼ 40 % (P < 0.0001), mimicking spine densities in SCZ and ASD, respectively. In both cases, performance on the mPFC-dependent temporal order recognition task was impaired, resulting in decreases in the discrimination ratio which assesses preference for the novel object: -0.39 ± 0.15, gaboxadol versus 0.52 ± 0.09, vehicle; P = 0.0002; -0.048 ± 0.10, α4 KO versus 0.49 ± 0.04, wild-type; P < 0.0001. In contrast, the number of approaches was unaltered, reflecting unchanged locomotion. These data suggest that altering α4βδ GABAR expression/activity alters spine density in L3 mPFC and impairs temporal order memory to mimic changes in ASD and SCZ. These findings may provide insight into these disorders.

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